Archive for the ‘Kutaisi’ Category

I have today discovered that a kind person has filmed some wonderful choirs in Kutaisi and uploaded both concert-style recitals and excerpts from the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom in the temple. A sample is provided below, the Trisagion (Thrice-Holy Hymn, known in Georgian as “Tsmindao Ghmerto”) prior to the readings from the Epistles and the Holy Gospel.

If Georgian chant interests you, you can subscribe to the Youtube channel here ,  via Facebook here , or via Google+ here.

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A Happy New Year to all!  Today, January 1 according to the Gregorian Calender, marks an interesting discrepancy between the Churches of following the Gregorian Calender and those following the Julian. For the Churches of Greece, Constantinople, Romania and the Levant, today is a dual feast, that of the Circumcision of Our Lord , and the Commemoration of one of the most important Fathers of the Church, Saint Basil the Great. So parishes in these jurisdictions often have a New Year’s Day liturgy celebrating these events and share Vasilopita (“Saint Basil’s Pie”) as a treat afterwards.

In Georgia, January 1 according to the Julian calender is still a fortnight away. An Oekonomia (dispensation) is granted by the Patriarch for a relaxation of the Nativity fasting for some modest festivities on New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Day, two eminent saints are commemorated, Saints Giorgi and Sava of Khakhuli, from what is now Turkey’s Erzurum region.

The history of the Georgian territories of Tao and Klarjeti has been intriguing me lately. These coastal and mountainous regions in northeastern Turkey were once the heartland of Georgian liturgical and artistic brilliance, to the extent that acolytes from as far as Kartli and Kakheti would travel there for instruction.

David III Kuropalates, Prince of Tao, was a relative of the Bagrationi dynasty of Kartli. Inheriting the small territory of Southern Tao in 966, he developed a well-organised military force and fostered the Church in his domain, Following his assistance of Byzantine Emperor Basil in the Battle of Pankalia, he was granted the imperial title “Kuropalates” and granted extensive tracts of land in Eastern Anatolia, inhabited by Armenians, Greeks and Georgians. This consolidated territory from the Black Sea to Central Eastern Anatolia made him one of the powerful rulers in the Caucasus.

David III continued the work of his predecessor Holy King Ashot the Great as a patron and protector of the Church, and established the Khakhuli Monastery, which was one of Georgia’s greatest centres of learning in the Middle Ages. The monastery now regrettably functions as a mosque.

King David’s nephew and stepson Bagrat III Kuropalates eventually became the first Monarch of a United Georgia, incorporating all the regions of today’s Georgia as well as Tao-Klarjeti, Shavsheti, Meskheti, and Javakheti into what was to be known as Sakartvelo – “all-Georgia”. Hence, when the Patriarch is known as “Patriarch-Catholicos of All-Georgia”, it affirms his authority over the Church in all those regions, even when national sovereignty over those regions has been lost.

Well known for his construction of the Bagrat Cathedral in Kutaisi, King Bagrat III continued his patronage of the great monasteries of Tao-Klarjeti including Khakhuli Monastery.

He requested that Saint Giorgi of Khakhuli become his Spiritual Father, and became the patron of Saint Giorgi’s prodigious liturgical works, including essays and encyclicals that remain influential in Orthodox theology today. Saint Giorgi’s younger brother Saint Sava was remembered as a devout and upright person who laboured diligently  as a monk at Khakhuli Monastery.

King Bagrat III at one time seconded Saint Giorgi as spiritual advisor to his son-in-law Peris Jojikisdze, a minor nobleman of Trialeti. Unfortunately this noblemen fell foul of court intrigues in Constantinople and was executed by the Emperor, and his family and entire retinue were detained in Constantinople for twelve years. Saint Giorgi eventually returned to Khakhuli with his nephew, who went on to become Saint George of Mount Athos.

Georgia’s “Golden Age” under Bagrat III is attributed in no small part to the spiritual guidance the Court received, and the flourishing of ecclesiastical literature, music and artwork during his reign was remarkable.

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The renovation of the 11th century Bagrati Cathedral ( ბაგრატი; ბაგრატის ტაძარი, or Bagratis tadzari) has been controversial, as the government’s renovation plan was rejected by UNESCO. UNESCO had classified the ruins as a World Heritage site. That being said, UNESCO officials have little regard for whether a religious site can be restored to its intended use, and a temple has a functional role as well as an aesthetic one.  It needs to keep the rain off the heads of the worshippers, and a cathedral without a roof lacks this utility.

Reconstructed Bagrati Cathedral opens in Kutaisi

The Cathedral of the Dormition of the Ghvtismshobeli (as its formal title is) was commissioned in 1003 by King Bagrat III, the first King of a united Georgia. Prior to his reign, Georgia had been divided into two or more Kingdoms, typically divided East-West. Destroyed by the Ottoman troops in 1692, the cathedral has been in ruins ever since. The Diocese of Kutaisi and Gaenati now has a magnificent cathedral at its seat for the use of the people. As most temples in Georgia are overflowing on Sunday mornings, and extremely crowded on feast days, the new capacity will be very welcome.

Reconstructed Bagrati Cathedral opens in Kutaisi

14.09.12 20:48

President Mikheil Saakashvili called on all political forces of Georgia for consolidation and thanked all those who participated in restoration of Bagrati temple in his speech made in the yard of Bagrati temple of Kutaisi in Imereti region today.

“I want to thank all who participated in this grand construction – all workers, all constructors and all engineers. I want especially to thank Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia ll, whose blessing played a decisive role in this great job. However, today’s main hero is King Bagrati, who built the temple. He laid the foundation of the unity, which is vitally important for our national existence and success”, Saakashvili said, noting Georgia was always going forward when it was united.

He said, he is happy to represent the generation which restored the Bagrati temple.

“Restoration of a church is a greatest merit for any Georgian. I am happy to have a chance to make my modest contribution into the restoration. I am happy to represent the generation which restored the Bagrati temple”, Saakashvili said

via Reconstructed Bagrati Cathedral opens in Kutaisi.



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Today the Georgian Church commemorates the martyrdom of all the thousands of Georgian Orthodox clergy and laypeople who suffered persecution and death at the hands of the Bolsheviks.

The years following Georgia’s independence from the Russian Empire, 1917-1921, were accompanied by a sense of great hope. Since Georgia’s annexation by the Russian Empire in the early 19th century, the Georgian Church had been forcibly incorporated into the Russian Church in contravention of the the Treaty of Georgievsk. The Russian Church was like no other Orthodox jurisdiction in the world; instead of being run by a bishop (a Patriarch), it was run by committee; a Synod made up of civil servants loyal to the Czar as well as bishops from throughout the Empire. Georgia’s political independence also allowed for the Georgian Church to restore its autocephaly (self-rule) established in the 5th century.

The invasion of the Soviet Red Army in early 1921, backed by local Bolsheviks, was a traumatic period for the Church, with many clergy executed and church treasures looted. To preserve the many holy relics and icons, Patriarch Leonid requested that the treasures be moved from Sioni and Svetiskhoveli Cathedrals to Kutaisi for safekeeping. They were buried under the porch of the the house of Metropolitan Nazar of Kutaisi-Gaeneti, who lived within the grounds of Bagrati Cathedral.

Metropolitan Nazar was a distinguished and highly educated bishop, from a long line of clergymen. After suffering the tragic loss of his wife and two daughters, he was tonsured as a monk in 1904 and became Metropolitan (bishop) of Kutaisi in 1918.

Between 1922-1923, over 1200 Georgian churches were razed to the ground by the Bolsheviks and manuscripts, icons and other treasures destroyed. In 1922, Metropolitan Nazar was arrested and tried for anti-Soviet agitation and theft of State property (namely, the church possessions buried under his porch). He was sentenced to death by firing squad but the sentence was commuted, and he was later released in 1924. He was rather fortunate, as in 1922, over 8000 Orthodox clergy throughout the Soviet Union were martyred for identical “offences”. He returned to his diocese where he continued his work under great difficulties, having been expropriated of his modest house.

On August 14 1924, a group of Christians from the village of Simoneti approached Metropolitan Nazar and requested that he consecrate their local church, an act that was legally dubious at the time. With his assisting clergy, he travelled to Simoneti and consecrated the church. That night, agents of the Cheka (forebears of the KGB) arrested the Metropolitan and his fellow clergymen, and presented them to a Troika at the village for trial. They were immediately sentenced to death and shot in Sapichkhia Forest. Martyred alongside Metropolitan Nazar were Archdeacon Besarion Kukhianidze, Father Simon Mchedlidze, Father Ieroteos Nikoladze and Father German Jajanidze.

In 1994, these five clergymen were canonised by the Georgian Church, and today we commemorate not only their memory, but the tens of thousands of Georgian clergy and Orthodox laity who were martyred by the Communists. It is a sobering thought that many of the people who engaged in state-sanctioned persecution of Christians in the post-World War II period are still alive and living amongst us. Not a few are reported to have repented, accepted baptism and become Christians, a dramatic transformation.

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